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27 May, 2021

The waste debate is set to hit the fan

FOR residents and owners of properties within the Port Hinchinbrook development, things are really starting to look a little grim.

By Peter McCullagh

The ongoing issue of their sewerage treatment plant is building in pressure and potentially untreated waste could soon hit the fan.

Cassowary Coast Regional Council Mayor Mark Nolan said Council’s door remains open and Council will continue to work with various stakeholders in an effort to find a long-term solution for sewerage within the Port Hinchinbrook development.

 Earlier this month, Councillors voted on a number of motions in relation to Port Hinchinbrook. A resolution was made to request the State Government maintain availability of funding on offer for Port Hinchinbrook to allow sufficient time for further funding to be secured.

 “This includes continuing ongoing commercial in confidence discussions with Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter who is actively seeking federal funding to complement the current $6.3million offer from the Queensland Government.

The anticipated total cost for this project to be delivered to the State Government’s specification is expected to be $10.6million. This includes an allocation for the purchase of additional land required for the sewerage treatment plant (STP).

 Councillor Nolan said that Council had requested the State Government leave their offer on the table whilst negotiations continue to source the further funding required.

 “While the offer from the State Government is very generous, in the absence of additional funding, the project would place Council and the community in a
compromised position.

 “Additionally, since 2018, Council had been operating and maintaining the current STP at Port Hinchinbrook under an interim funding agreement with Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation.

 “The agreement for the ongoing maintenance and operation of the STP and associated network have not been extended since it expired in August 2020 and none of the current proposals include funding towards this service.

 “Since funding ceased in August, maintenance and operation of a privately owned asset in liquidation has cost Cassowary Coast ratepayers over $130,000 (up until end of April 2021). Council has formally requested the State Government repay these funds,” Councillor Nolan said.

 “For Council, continuing to operate the STP without further funding would not be ideal and Councillors have voted to cease operations of the STP on 30 June 2021.

 “By ceasing operations on 30 June 2021, this provides an opportunity for Passage Holdings, the Liquidator or property owners to come to other suitable arrangements on how sewerage services will continue to be provided at Port Hinchinbrook. This sees the wider Cassowary Coast region ceasing direct involvement with funding of this service.”

 Councillor Nolan reiterated that Council was committed to seeking a long-term solution and will continue to negotiate with other government agencies to seek a solution.

 On March 11, 2021, Council voted to accept, with conditions, a funding proposal from the Queensland Treasury relating to a funding proposal for the acquisition and construction of a new sewerage treatment plant for Port Hinchinbrook Estate, however responsibility would be limited to the STP and not include the road network.

 Queensland Treasury has now responded to the conditions and is seeking further commitment from Council. Treasury have indicated support for some of the conditions but have indicated that they are unable to meet Council’s request for further funding.

There are approximately 300 rate paying properties located at Port Hinchinbrook, residents from the Cassowary Coast region are concerned the rest of the ratepayers will be subsidising a small number of residents at Port Hinchinbrook.

The continued funding of the Port Hinchinbrook STP is a contentious issue within the region. Many residents are opposed to Council accepting the full running cost and maintenance liability for the facility.  Member for Hinchinbrook, Nick Dametto raised this funding issue in state parliament earlier this month, asking the Treasurer Stephen Miles to intervene and appoint an advisor to work with all parties to reach a suitable outcome.

The Treasurer replied that residents should have access to services, (sewerage and roads) and whether or not those services are provided by the liquidator or the council he feels the government should do what they can to ensures that happens.

“At the end of the day, it is Council’s responsibility for those services,” said the Treasurer.

Dametto believes the long-term solution is for Council to own both the STP and the roads in Port Hinchinbrook, as Council is the only entity with a legal mechanism to rate and charge for these services at
Port Hinchinbrook.

 


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